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Entries in Andy Serkis (7)

Thursday
Nov132014

AFI Fest: Weta Digital Celebrates 20 Years with New Technology

Anne Marie here at the AFI Fest with another special event. Weta Digital, the pioneering VFX company behind some of the biggest blockbusters, including the Marvel franchise, Avatar, and The Hobbit, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. In  “State of the Art: The Evolution of Weta Digital," Visual Effects Supervisor Dan Lemmon gave audiences a peek behind the digital curtain of Weta Digital’s latest film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, to show how the company develops performance capture to assist and augment cinematography.

 Weta Digital is probably best known for its motion capture process (dubbed “performance capture” by James Cameron "because they also capture emotions"). Dan Lemmon explained that this evolved from Andy Serkis filming scenes as Gollum twice for The Lord of the Rings, into a sophisticated system called a “Capture Volume,” a cube of space surrounded by infrared cameras that record the actors’ movements. For Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, director Matt Reeves wanted to shoot the apes on location, so a new “portable” version was developed. The result had a profound effect not only on the technology of performance capture, but also on the look of the film--both digital and real.

Serkis in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Since Avatar won the Oscar for Best Cinematography in 2009, each subsequent winner has been a VFX-heavy film, so the unspoken question was how Weta Digital interacted with Michael Seresin, the cinematographer of Dawn. Shooting on location allowed Seresin to light the ape actors as he would real characters. Then, Weta Digital could match that lighting on the pixelized primates. In addition, Seresin and Reeves developed a look book, pulling images from The Godfather and grittier 70s films. Dan Lemmon explained that Weta’s job was to mimic Seresin’s intentions, for instance digitally creating the vertigo-inducing helicopter shot for the climax. However, Lemmon also proudly pointed out how Weta Digital improved on Seresin’s vision, whether it was by manipulating the light to capture a digital ape’s eyes, or by adding fake “flaws” to the helicopter shot in order to make the synthetic image more real. 

The result of Weta Digital’s collaboration with Seresin is undoubtedly remarkable, and pushes VFX to be accepted as an art, rather than a gimmick. Still, Weta's additions to Seresin's work mark a definite change in the visual landscape of moviemaking. As VFX are integrated from pre-production to filming to post-production and digital effects get clearer, the line between cinematography and visual effects is going to get increasingly muddy.

Friday
Aug012014

Podcast: A Smackdown Companion w/ Dana Delany

Dana Delany loves talking movies! You can see her next in "Hand of God" on Amazon PrimeYou've read the Supporting Actress Smackdown of 1973. Now hear its companion Podcast 

On this special episode of the podcast -- meant to enhance and extend the current Supporting Actress Smackdown conversation to include the films themselves -- Nathaniel welcomes two time Emmy winner Dana Delany (China Beach, Desperate Housewives, Body of Proof), as well as EW editor at large and "Five Came Back" author Mark Harris, "You Must Remember This" podcast goddess Karina Longworth, Bill Chambers from Film Freak Central, and Kyle Turner from The Movie Scene.

You'll want to listen to this one. Trust me on this: your week will not be complete until you hear Dana's Sylvia Sidney impression and Mark's childhood Exorcist story. 

Smackdown 1973
00:01 Introductions
02:45 American Graffiti: nostalgia, sexism, George Lucas, actors vs screenplay
13:15 Summer Wishes Winter Dreams: New Yorkers and Joanne Woodward's psyche
20:30 Paper Moon: Tatum O'Neal and the matter of child actors
23:15 The Exorcist: assembled performances, stand-ins, horror subjectivity
29:45 "Collaborative Performances" Andy Serkis & Linda Blair
34:00 We share childhood stories about seeing scary/adult movies
40:00 Behind the Scenes history & Dana talks Emmys & the awards circus
45:35 Paper Moon: Madeline Kahn, great screenplays, category fraud, and films about The Great Depression 
55:00 Final Questions / Goodbyes 

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments.

NEXT ON THE SMACKDOWN: 1989 on August 31st

Smackdown Companion 1973

Sunday
Jul132014

Tweet of the Capsule of the Dawn of The Planet of the Apes

Of the. of the. of the. Help, stuck in a prepositional loop! I regret to inform that there is no full review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) -- you may have noticed unusually sparse off my game posting -- but I press on with this exhaustively multi-tasking post. It's a list. It's a tweet roundup. It's a review.

I can't go on. I'll go on."
-Samuel Beckett 

Were I to write a traditional review of the surprisingly strong sequel to the surprisingly good Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) it would essentially be some sort of fussy expansion and tangent filled detours of these 10 points:

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul092014

you wouldn't be able to do these awful things to me if i weren't still in this Blog | But cha'aar, Link, ya'aar!

Boy Culture counts down 100 best Golden Girls guest spots - movie stars of yore!
The Daily Beast has an excellent piece on Tammy and Melissa McCarthy's career and body (also body of work) by Teo Bugbee
New Yorker thorough piece on the arguments for and against VOD for indies and the question of "cultural endurance" (I'm against VOD in general but I recognize that's probably because I live in NYC where I can actually see the movies and I think moviegoing is so much more immersive than watching things at home)

Me Says considers Notes on a Scandal (2006) the Whatever Happened to Baby Jane of our time 
Bad-Ass Digest on Exodus: Gods and Kings' 'white men with bronzer' cast. Will it finally crystallize the white-wash problem for people who still don't get it? 
Nathaniel R and have you seen that tacky black&white-in-color poster?
EW Dick Jones the voice of Pinocchio dies at 87 
Radar apparently Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes are 7 months pregnant... I thought they broke up? I can't keep up with celebrity lovelives 
Cosmopolitan has a cool piece on top stuntwomen... stunts are on my mind alot given that it's blockbuster season and this piece a month back...
TFE an interview with Hollywood's top stuntman Bobby Holland Hanton
Movie Dearest interviews the screenwriter of the 80s shocker Crimes of Passion starring Kathleen Turner  

Finally, what do you make of this plea for a collaborative performance Oscar?

Outstanding Collaborative Performance: Andy Serkis and company from Press Play Video Blog on Vimeo.

 

On the one hand I absolutely agree that Andy Serkis needs an Oscar and I've been saying so since 2002. But, like Mark Harris, I don't think it needs to be a competitive one. Creating Oscar categories or changing Oscar rules due to one or two special things (like say a Batman movie directed by Chris Nolan or a really great year for animation) usually results in far more problems and undeserving honors than it's worth. I say bring back the special Oscar for cinematic achievements that don't have competitive categories. When I was a kid that was a semi-regular event and it was nearly always cool.

Saturday
May172014

Controversy, My Preciousssss 

I've long had a deep respect for the work Andy Serkis has done in elevating the acting in visual effects. Serkis is, in many ways, the figure head of the fusion form or acting and animation known as performance capture, Hes already given us King Kong, Gollum, and Caesar. But in interviews he's beendownplaying the efforts of animation teams in bringing these highly memorable characters to life.  It's really pissing animators off. That's kind of a shame since film is such a collaborative medium. It's also a shame that he himself doesn't get as much credit as he should with his acting peers for how good his work is in these movies. So there's enough lack of credit to go around... deficent credit for everyone. Um... hoorah?

Here's an interview he did in March with i09 about his work on the forthcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and two responses, one angry from Cartoon Brew and one measured but annoyed from the Lord of the Rings animation director Randal William Cook. Cook makes an interesting comparison with Marni Nixon's voice work on 1960s musicals in his rebuttal...

Let me state that Andy really should be considered the principal author of Gollum’s performance, but there’s a hell of a difference between principal author and sole author. The Animators who helped shape Gollum’s performance are actors of a very special type, working at a high level of achievement. They’re not like Marni Nixon singing for Natalie Wood in WEST SIDE STORY, doing only the things that Andy couldn’t do: they were doing the same things Andy did, in concert with him...

Next up for Serkis is his debut in the director's chair, helming Warner Bros live action version of The Jungle Book in which all the animals will be performance captured. This is not, to be clear, the same Jungle Book movie that has been in the news recently with celebrity castings (the one that Lupita Nyong'o signed on for recently) which is an animated film. But with these types of feelings brewing among animators directing his first feature employing tons of them might be a tougher task than first features already always are.

Saturday
Feb042012

Link on a Hot Tin Roof

Movie|Line Posters for Jean Dujardin's latest film, the sex comedy Les Infidels, have been deemed too racy for France. For France? Really? This surprises me.
Guardian has a funny piece on blaming Twilight for everything but particularly the explosion of supernatural characters. Saturation point!
Coming Soon I am really scared of this new photo of Emma Stone from The Amazing Spider-Man. Emma Stone is gorgeous and only 23 years old. She doesn't need photoshopping and definitely not photoshopping that makes her look like a CGI creation! 

In Contention wonders if it might be Brad Pitt's year after all. STOP TRYING TO GET MY HOPES UP.
IndieWire sexually explicit Serbian drama Klip wins big in Rotterdam
Awards Daily When Jessica Chastain met Meryl Streep. 
Washington Blade has a good piece on Madonna reemerging in the Lady Gaga era and what it all means. I love that Matthew Rettemund calls it "homosexual civil war" but Matt and I both agree it's silly. There's no rule that says you can only enjoy one pop diva at a time. I certainly have never been monogamous with my actressexuality and I never will be. Boring!

Finally, RIP to Ben Gazzara, the original "Brick" from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Paul Newman took over his part for the movie version but Gazzara had an enduring career in all three Actors Playgrounds: film, stage and television. On the movie side he was part of the winning cast of Anatomy of a Murder (pictured right) but he'll most likely be rememberd as a key star in John Cassavettes repertory of actors. I always love reading Sheila O' Malley's pieces on stars who have passed on. Here's a small taste...

He was in his 40s when he found himself on the cutting edge of the independent film scene in America. He wasn’t a young, hungry guy. He was middle-aged. Married. With a kid. They all were married, with kids. It wasn’t a hipster sensibility, or a Bohemian type of “let’s make a movie with my friends” kind of thing. They were artists. Who understood compromise, they all had had extensive careers, but nothing compared to the roles that Cassavetes gave them. Gazzara had already been around forever. He had worked with Hitchcock, for God’s sake. And Kazan. So to take that risk … to sit in the theatre watching Cassavetes’ Faces and admitting that he felt jealousy. Jealousy of Cassavetes’ talent, and also – an ambition: I must work with that guy."

And as always the Daily Notebook has a collection of quotes and obits.